BCS rankings put Buckeyes at No. 6 (Football)

Jim Martinho

The first installment of the 2002 Bowl Championship Series rankings sent a message to Big Ten teams: Lose a game, and you can all but forget about a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.

Three conference teams made the list of 15 — the top two of which will play for the national title in Tempe, Ariz., on Jan. 3 — but all three will have to run the table to reach the final game.

Ohio State (8-0, 3-0 Big Ten) came in sixth in the standings, two spots down from its No. 4 spot in the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls.

Notre Dame and Georgia leapfrogged the Buckeyes, who were hurt by their 29th-rated strength of schedule and placed last of the six unbeaten teams ranked. The Fighting Irish and Bulldogs boast the first- and ninth-toughest schedules in the nation.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said his focus is on Saturday’s matchup with Penn State, but he expects the Buckeyes will have to go undefeated to reach the national championship.

“If any of us are thinking about (the BCS) it’ll be taken care of on the field on Saturday, ” Tressel said. “The only thing I know for sure is if you don’t win all your games you’re not going to be playing in the championship game.”

Both Michigan and Iowa matched their AP rankings at eighth and 13th. If not for early-season losses to Notre Dame and Iowa State — both ranked in the top 15 — the Wolverines and Hawkeyes would likely be as high or higher than the Buckeyes.

OVER THE LIMIT: The Big Ten followed the lead of several other major conferences in allowing teams to sign more players than the limit of 85 scholarships.

Indiana head coach Gerry DiNardo introduced the legislation after his experience with oversigning as the head coach of Louisiana State.

“I had nine years of experience with it in the SEC, so I thought I had experience with how it would shake out,” DiNardo said. “I don’t think there’s any way, with most universities, that you can manage the roster to be at 85 unless you’re able to oversign.”

DiNardo said that after a normal season a team has about 65 scholarships allocated, allowing it to sign a maximum of 20 recruits to letters of intent. However, if a recruit makes a last-minute decision change, or players leave the program between signing day and the beginning of camp, the team is left short of the 85 scholarships allowed.

Indiana’s already-thin roster was clearly a motivating factor for DiNardo.

“It may allow us to be at 85 in 2004 rather than 2005,” he said. “Without oversigning, it was almost like we were going to be a probation-type team.”

Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr said oversigning will allow the Big Ten to compete with other power conferences in nonconference and bowl games.

“I can remember going to bowl games where we’ve got 76 or 77 players on scholarship playing against a team that has 85. That’s eight or nine less scholarship players you’re coaching and developing. If you’re going to play bowl games against conferences that can do that, it puts you at a severe disadvantage.”

ONE AND DONE?: Ohio State freshman tailback Maurice Clarett said in last week’s ESPN The Magazine that he is considering challenging the NFL’s rule that requires players to be three years removed from high school before entering the draft.

Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez dealt with the same rumors after Ron Dayne’s freshman year.

“If a player had that choice, I think that would be his right,” Alvarez said. “I think everyone has the right to move forward, but I certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone to do it.”